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7 National Parks For The Best Fall Colors

7 National Parks For The Best Fall Colors

Denali National Park 

Fall In Denali National Park

(An extremely rare clear Autumn day in Denali National Park - Photo by eyeCatchLight Photography/SHUTTERSTOCK)

Fall is a short-lived, yet vivid and stunning season in Denali National Park. Located in Alaska, in the center of an impressive 600 mile mountain range, this park has long, rough winters and a very short fall season, which typically begins mid-September, and ends early to late October. The fall colors of rusty burgundy, burnt orange, and caramel yellows are even more brilliant against the heavily snow capped mountains in the park. Moose, Grizzly Bears, Black Bears, Caribou, and Dall’s Sheep are very active during this season in preparation for winter, and are often spotted during this time of year. Fall is also the best time of year to view the spectacular colors of the Aurora Borealis, a natural phenomenon which creates long strips of beautiful dancing lights in the darkened skies.  

Acadia National Park 

(The beautiful coastline of Acadia National Park during Fall - Photo by Joseph Sohm/SHUTTERSTOCK)

The spectacular fall foliage in Acadia National Park is often so brilliant and bright that the changing leaves almost appear to be on fire among the green leaves that haven't yet changed. Located in Maine, Acadia National Park is known for its abundant lakes, ponds, streams and wetlands. The shoreline is also home to one of the most iconic landmarks of Acadia National Park, Bass Harbor Head Lighthouse, a must see during any season. The park’s many waters serenely mirror the beautiful fall colors abundant in this region. The park has several walking trails and canoeing locations to enjoy autumn’s breathtaking foliage. The best time to view the fall colors is typically mid-October, but keep informed with weekly updates on the fall foliage website.  

Grand Teton National Park

Grand Teton National Park

(Grand Teton National Park is one of the best places to really experience Autumn.)

During Autumn, vibrant yellow aspen trees dot Grand Teton National Park and frame the park’s crowning feature, The Grand Teton Mountains. From about early September to Mid-October, the bright red, orange, and yellow colors of fall can be seen in abundance. This is the perfect time of year to spot deer and elk in the park. It is mating season, so you may hear the bugle call of a bull elk, or witness two bull elk or bucks powerfully knocking antlers and demonstrating their strength and endurance in a fight for females. Bull moose can be seen during this time of year seeking a mate, and sometimes fighting other males. Bears can also be spotted foraging for food in preparation for the long winter ahead. The number of park visitors drops off significantly during this cooler time of year, creating the perfect conditions for dedicated fall enthusiasts to visit. 

Great Smoky Mountain National Park

Fall In Great Smoky Mountains National Park

(The stunning views from various overlooks throughout Great Smoky National Park leave no doubt that The Smoky Mountains are one of the best places in the world to see fall colors. - Photo by Nickolay Khoroshkov/SHUTTERSTOCK)

With over 100 species of trees in Great Smoky Mountain National Park, the fall leaves are a spectacular show you wont want to miss. With a grand mountain range that seems to extend as far as the eye can see coupled with a sea of red, orange, gold, yellow and green hues, it is no wonder that Great Smoky Mountain National Park is a top destination for many people during the fall. Cades Cove is a must-see, this rustic settlement provides a glimpse of early life in the area, and is rich in history and beauty. There are also several hikes from Cades Cove that take nature enthusiasts to stunning waterfalls, and provide a great vantage point to take in the rich colors of fall. Hikers may also spot some wildlife, such as turkeys, white-tailed deer, black bears, and elk. The leaves begin to change as early as mid-September, and typically peaks around mid-October or early November.

Mount Rainier National Park 

Fall In Mount Rainier National Park

(Beautiful shot of Mount Rainier during early Autumn - Photo by Mike Peters/SHUTTERSTOCK)

The rugged snow capped peak of Mt. Rainier looks even more majestic in the fall, with carpets of color surrounding the valleys below and stately pine trees dotting the landscape. This park has many hikes to enjoy the beautiful scenery, and even allows free mushroom picking to those that grab a permit before heading out. For berry enthusiasts, the park has an abundance of huckleberries, salmon berries, blackberries and blueberries, and allows visitors to pick 2 quarts per person per day with a permit. Visitors can take the Mt. Rainier Scenic Railroad throughout the park to see the spectacular mountain views and fall foliage. Some train rides even take visitors to a nearby pumpkin patch to enjoy more fall festivities. The elk can be seen in abundance during autumn seeking a mate, bugling, and even engaging in sparring matches. This website offers great tips on the best locations for fall colors, hikes, and lodging in Mount Rainier National Park 

Rocky Mountain National Park

Fall In Rocky Mountain National Park

(Eye catching colors dot the mountain side in Rocky Mountain National Park - Photo by JTang/SHUTTERSTOCK)

Golden aspen trees by the thousands vividly highlight all of nature’s magnificence at Rocky Mountain National Park during fall. Autumn typically arrives around late August at high elevations and begins around October at lower elevations in the park. Bear Lake is a popular destination, and provides pristine views of Half Mountain, Hallet Peak, and Longs Peak, with beautiful reflections of the peaks and fall foliage on the lake. Trail Ridge Road, a 48 mile drive, treats visitors with stunning vistas and abundant wildlife sightings during the cooler autumn months. Several look out points provide vast and breathtaking panoramic views of the mountains and valleys below.  

Blue Ridge Parkway

Fall On the blue ridge parkway

(Morning Fog along The Blue Ridge Parkway - Photo by Kyle Tsui/Flickr)

Blue Ridge Parkway, known as “America’s Favorite Drive”, is a 469 mile drive that starts in Shenandoah National Park in Virginia and ends at Great Smoky Mountain National Park in North Carolina. The scenic views are breathtaking, and the 26 arched stone tunnels on the drive add a touch of nostalgia. During the fall season, the Blue Ridge Mountains are painted with splashes of red, orange, gold, yellow and green foliage and the soft autumn light adds a warm, ethereal glow to the scenery. Craggy Gardens, at milepost 364, offers 360 degree panoramic views of scenic beauty and is an optimum location to watch a spectacular sunrise or sunset. Crabtree Falls has a campground and hiking trails that lead to the impressive 70 foot Crabtree Waterfall, an exquisite sight to add in addition to the fall foliage. Blue Ridge Parkway is busy with visitors during autumn, and the fall colors typically peak during mid to late October.

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